EP #34: Scaling Fintech App User Growth Like India’s SmartCoin Financials

EP #34: Scaling Fintech App User Growth Like India’s SmartCoin Financials

About this Podcast

COVID-19 has affected every industry differently and fintech is no exception. As the world is shifting from ‘respond’ to ‘recover’ to ‘resurrect’, it is an opportune time for players to be agile and think big. Fintech could play a critical role in helping the economies shift from the crisis mode with innovative financial solutions.

To understand how fintech players can leverage data-driven mobile marketing, we caught up with Musa Bhat, Marketing Manager at SmartCoin Financials.

Founded in 2016, SmartCoin Financials is a next-gen fintech company that offers a state-of-the-art, user-friendly, and scalable lending platform. They have become India’s leading tech-driven lending app with a 4X growth since inception.

Musa highlights the following:

  • The effect of COVID-19 on the fintech landscape
  • The short-term and long-term changes in consumer behavior due to this pandemic, especially in the BFSI sector
  • The role of personalization in fintech
  • The need to facilitate relevant communication with customers to arrest churn
  • The need to adopt AI-backed marketing automation to increase engagement and retention

Join us as we engage in an insightful discussion to understand how cutting-edge technology like AI and predictive analytics aids in creating a scalable fintech platform.

Episode Transcripts

Pradyut (Host 1): “Hi guys, welcome to the brand new episode of MarTechno Beat, a specially curated podcast series powered by Net Cosmotech. I’m your host, Pradyut, and here’s your opportunity to learn from leading marketers, product managers, and market influencers across Industries and regions as they share actionable insights on digital transformation, user engagement, retention, personalization, and all things AI-led marketing. Today, I have with me my co-host, Mudit Shukla. Mudit all over to you.”

Mudit (Host 2): Thank you for the introduction Pradyut. So on the podcast today, we are hosting a gentleman who has been disrupting the digital marketing space for more than four years now. He’s an ex-MOV who functioned across the globe, has driven acquisition, re-engagement, and retargeting for multiple Brands. His craft has been duly recognized with multiple recognitions across the span of his journey. Now leading marketing efforts at SmartCoin financials, please welcome. Mr. Mussa Wale. Hi Mussa.”

Mussa: “Hi Mudit. Thank you for having me.” 

Mudit: “It’s a pleasure Mussa, it’s a pleasure having you on the podcast. Over to you Pradyut” 

Pradyut: “Thank you. Thank you Mudit. So Mussa starts our conversation in context to the audience who is tuning into this particular episode. Could you briefly share for the ones who aren’t already aware, what is a Smart coin? How is it helping its users today and something about its growth story and your journey so far.”

Mussa: “Right, so Smart Coin is a printing lending platform which essentially started in 2016 by Rohit, Vinay Jain and all coming from IIT background. So, the idea came from Rohit when he was in India and he saw that there was a huge necessity for lending in the blue-collar segment and he saw that people needing a thousand rupee loan didn’t slip and lending in the traditional way already existed but what Smart Coin did was give it a distant touch. So that’s where you know the whole concept of Smart Coin came in. So people can now Abdul loans as per their own needs. You would be sitting at home, relaxing and you know whether they have any medical needs or you know, paying the utility bills, even to gift your loved ones on special occasions so the process of availing loan you know, has been made a very seamless one by just putting a few documents and you get a loan directly into your bank account. So in terms of growth, we started in 2016 and everything but you know be dominatingly organic, but later on, you know, when I joined in 2018 we started adding users from different acquisition platforms and today we sat at 4Mn users and million-plus loans in terms of amount, we have given 400Crs.”

Mudit: “Wow”

Pradyut: “Specifically Mussa if you have to state about your journey and your experience at Smart Coin, how’s it going, how was your personal journey of working at SmartCoin Financials so far?”

Mussa: “Personally I would say that working in a startup business is a totally different culture and totally different environment. I would say that I came into the marketing but you get to work in totally different verticals and I guess that’s true for every  startup especially at Smart Coin, the founders are  really awesome, you know you Hey the hold of every different vertical and the journey has been super good so.”

Mudit: “Nice, interesting”

Mussa: “Right”

Pradyut: “Correct, because when you join a start-up it’s never a linear curve great because you get to your job designation is finite but the responsibilities that you’re tasked with can be infinite.”

Mussa: “Right”

Mudit: “That’s very well said, Pradyut. Coming back to you know, so your journey basically like we discover that and we have this in our conversation as well right travels across regions and basically the entire fintech landscape today right across India and beyond is basically very competitive right. Being in India I can vouch for I’ve seen it basically, you know, when it comes to giving loans I’ve seen templates on Street walls on trains to the largest BFI’s in India, you know all of them, you know to offer some kind of loans and some kind of you know money lending services. Where does Smart Coin really fit into the person right? What is the USP of Smart Coin and how differently you take up user engagement and drive users to take up a loan.?” 

Mussa: “So Smart Coin was the early movers in the print lending space, you know, when you talk about digital lending space it was a totally new concept at the time when we entered the market, whereas right now you would see in a lot of you players have entered the market but you know the competition, in general, has worked really well in our favor, you know, it’s because of the competition, you know the concept, you know, have based lending body in huge brand awareness and people came to know that the product like this existed. It already existed in the traditional place where offline money-lending happened, but there was a social stigma, you know, that was attached to it. And that’s why people adapted to do this new you digital trend, but at the same time people also  hesitant to share their Bank details, KYC documents and only wanted to use credible platforms in terms of making financial decisions, and that’s where we stand out because of the early presence we had.” 

Mudit: “So essentially you actually in the attempt to be as customer-centric as possible your first challenge was to gain the trust of your target audience.”

Mussa: “Exactly, exactly. You know it was a totally different thing and we were the first in the market and asking for Bank details and asking for KYC documents in the society like India people think of fraud you know at first so getting that brand awareness in the market was really important and I guess in competition work well in that space.”

Pradyut: “Correct, existing confidence in the existing players who weren’t all that great. So you actually began with an advantage so to speak.”

Mussa: “Right.”

Mudit: “Coming onto this entire piece, Mussa of trust and Pradyut added onto it but Mussa you rightly mentioned, being first into space and building trust and gaining the trust of the audience is definitely a challenge right which brings me to the question basically that we see multiple sets of people right in this particular space the primary two segments of people actually being, one would be ready to share their details over a digital medium, right? I still know right now my mom, she had to share some confidential details, you know over an app or the web or any digital medium, you know, she’s very hesitant to do that. That’s one set of audience right and the other set of audience is those who are really interested but, you know generally do not know how to, you know, adopt digital processes, right? For example, your Smart Coin really banks on the side. It says you give out loans for two minutes without the hassle-free process, right? So just to understand over here, you know those users who basically don’t know how to complete the digital process or not so well digitally adopted that leads to huge churn. Right? Basically, you know money-lending you do not know, you know how you know, the recovery process will be there. You do not know what the interest rate is going to be there right. Is churn a witness for you to and how you’re basically handling it?”

Mussa: “Definitely, churn is a very big factor and I would say before even retention, engagement I would say thank you to the panel optimizations that in the city especially in the lending space, every marketer has a problem with that and the reason for that is once the user lands on the the app and installs the app, until the whole end process even beside the interest rates and all but the whole process is also very tiresome, people have to register on the app, they have to do their KYC steps, they have to enter the bank details and we do see a lot of churn in that but what we essentially to reduce that but we do is that we communicate by sending them push notifications and guiding our users to take the necessary next steps in the seamless manner and what happens is the blue collar segment especially the ones the ones we cater to, people are not  that tech savvy and the repeated guidance throughout the journey is really really important and later in the journey, you see, you know retention also playing a big factor and also engagement. For engagement I would say, an app like Smart Coin where the whole purpose is just to get a loan and then we don’t have any necessity open up again, what we try  so what we try is, you know, we try to get our users on our different social platforms to be it Facebook, Twitter or TikTok for that matter and engage them on those social platforms and when it comes to retention piece for our good users, people who can avail, you know, the second time loan on our platform for them the process is really simple because the next one is just going to be a tap away so retention for our good users is not a problem but the first part of the journey probably you know app installing, the first transaction that he does, that’s the huge challenge that every marketer in the traditional lending space can see.”

Pradyut: “That’s that’s interesting and you know, you spoke about this consumer Behavior at this time. And you know how this is something that has always been a challenge, but I just want to ask you a more contextual question, COVID-19 has happened, different brands are responding differently to the entire situation, consumer behavior is Shifting how has this actually impacted Smart Coin per se and what would be some of the short-term and long-term consumer Behavior changes that you would have been witnessed?” 

Mussa: So when it comes to consumer behavior especially in the COVID times talking about Smart Coin’s journey, what we have seen is that in the blue-collar segment, we saw a surge in the demand and that is you know because of the cash flow because people are not able to work at the time and it has directly affected their cash flow and we have seen a surge in the demand and the long term also for the blue-collar segment, this is going to be the case, but we are also seeing, we will be witnessing the change in the behavior as well. People don’t save money, they earn a hundred bucks and they spend it all and there is no proper financial guidance to them. I guess you’ll see that shift would be really interesting with people in the Blue collar segment, having good financial health, later on, would be prepared for a pandemic like this and people aren’t saving money for future pandemics like this.

Mudit: “One of the interesting points that you actually mentioned, the entire problem lies from you know, the first app launch to the first transaction, right? and basically, you also mentioned that the second transaction onwards it’s basically a lot easier and users just come back again for a loan alone and basically take another, you know take another service or another loan up from you guys but just in accordance right when we come onto multiple user engagements because basically then a user continue to take loans from SmartCoin financials and they repeat right which means that I would also need to automate a lot of reminders, due payments that basically lacked over months right, there are multiple loans that a user may take at one single point in time and all of those loans would have let’s say a different time point for submitting or paying back the credits. Just to understand what are your key engagement, retention challenges, data challenges, and what’s the future of all of this? Right? How do you see all of these things managed if you have certain challenges around them?”

Mussa: “It is very important to communicate with these users that at different stages of the loan cycle I would say and the challenges that we are facing right now is that you know once a user takes a loan from us and we know that you know, it’s the second month and you probably would need money again for his probably for his rent or any other expenses and in case we don’t see that, we would automatically drive that and within a minimal human intervention like we can’t assign a guy at the backend you know, send invitations every time so having a predictive model behind the whole user life cycle will put itself that you know, this user has completed the loan say the last 10 days and it’s time to send push notifications or an SMS for a reminder that you can avail the next loan of the higher amount so these challenges are already being faced. I guess, you know, that’s where MMB comes into the picture.”

Pradyut: “That’s absolutely true. I mean the entire marketing efforts, I still remember there was a time when you speak to you know, multiple different stakeholders they actually mention you know, retrieving excel sheets, targeting users, manually engaging them. It is a whole lot of a different process, right, and obviously, you can’t assign a guy at the backend to you know, handle all of these pieces, you know, I understand and it’s pretty basic right beside that there is an automation engine in place that interacts and engages with these users. Coming onto the entire piece, right now SmartCoin financials, basically the prime USP is to give out Loans, is money lending and just to understand over here like the market has become right? It’s become a very crowded space out there and since loans let’s say is the primary service offered by Smart Coin? What’s the importance and depth of personalization, right? How is that being done in SmartCoin? Is there any impact of the first radiation and have you really been adopting the same at your end?”

Mussa: “So when it comes to personalization, what we do is that you know, if we check our app we have kept in, you know, multiple languages including English, Hindi, and other regional languages. So that gives it its Google segment. You know, that gives us a huge edge that people from different backgrounds can easily understand the whole flow of the app and also when it comes to, there are a lot of queries from our users and what we have done for that is that our customer Representatives, you know, they speak multiple languages, especially the original languages so that you know, whenever there’s a problem from the end-user we can communicate with them, you know, very seamlessly. On the product side, what we saw was that in this segment there was a necessity of a daily expense manager so that it’s not only about the loan only like if they need any other products that are solving their pain points, we could solve that for them as well.”

Mudit: “Right because  cross-sell and upsell also becomes a major aspect of personalization because at the end of the day you want to give your customers exactly what they want before they even want to search for it.”

Pradyut: “Absolutely”

Mussa: “Right”

Mudit: “Just probing a little further on this entire personalization aspect, you mentioned how you know regional languages can play an important role here. Give us any insight as to any major personalized campaigns that you may have run and that have really worked for you especially over the last six months.”

Mussa: “So if you check our user base, 40% of our users come from metro cities and the remaining ones come from other cities so what we have done is in all our Facebook campaigns, all our Tik-Tok campaigns, and all-our Influencer campaigns they cater to this aspect. I guess you know that having that emotional effect in your brand awareness and performance marketing plays an important role and we have also seen higher conversion rates because of that.”

Mudit: Okay, Interesting. I think this brings me to the end of the podcast right? It’s been a truly insightful session, Mussa. It’s been powered by knowledge and experience. It is obvious that it is pre-washed. I am 100% sure that our listeners would confirm in accordance with this podcast right now. On behalf of NetCore and behalf of all of our listeners and behalf of Pradyut as well, I thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights. We wish you and the entire team of SmartCoin Financials all the best for future endeavors.

Mussa: “Thank you”


Unlock unmatched customer experiences,
get started now
Let us show you what's possible with Netcore.